Three More Medals for Canada in Montreal

Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) added a bronze medal to his harvest on the last day of the Montreal ISU World Cup Short Track, at the Maurice-Richard Arena. Hamelin’s medal came in the 1000m event today, giving him three individual medals this weekend, as he won gold in both the 500m and 1500m yesterday. Canada’s relay teams added two more medals for Canada, silver for the men and bronze for the women, bringing the medal total to six for the weekend.

Hamelin was the lone skater in the men’s 1000m final, after his brother François (Ste-Julie, QC) finished third of his semi-final race, behind Lee Jung-Su and Sung Si-Bak of Korea, and was relegated to the B Final. In the final, Charles Hamelin was facing those two Koreans, as well as American Apolo Anton Ohno and Thibaut Fauconnet of France.

There was a lot of action in the first few laps, and Hamelin brought on loud cheering from the crowd when he took the lead with 6 ½ lap to go, thanks to a powerful outside pass. Sung passed outside with three laps to go, and Lee followed a lap later, relegating Hamelin to third place. Sung crossed the finish line first in 1:25.924, Lee followed in 1:26.038 and Hamelin got the bronze medal in 1:26.116.

“I was stuck behind at the end of the race,” admitted the Canadian skater. “I wasn’t able to prepare a pass so I did my best to stick to my position and finish third. I think this is the best competition of my life, so I’m extremely happy to have done it in Montreal,” added the skater, proud of his four medals in as many races. François Hamelin won the B Final, a slow paced race with only two skaters, and takes 6th place overall.

On the women side, both Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne de Lauzon, QC) and Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) were in the B Final. Roberge’s semi-final race looked like a final, with Chinese Wang Meng, American Katherine Reutter and Korean Lee Eun-Byul. She tried to take the lead on the outside with fire laps to go, but there wasn’t enough room, and she found herself last.

In the B Final, Roberge took off first, St-Gelais was in third. With 6 ½ laps to go, St-Gelais took the lead on the outside, but Lee Eun-Byul passed her back right away. Roberge went to the front four laps before the end, and Lee followed, cruising to the finish line in 1:36.491. Roberge finished second in 1:36.744 and St-Gelais third in 1:36.790. This gives them very respectable 6th and 7th places overall. Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) was eliminated in quarter finals, when she finished third of her heat, for 12th position in the distance.

Canada’s objective for this weekend was to place all its skaters within the top-32 in the 500m and 1000m races, and top-36 of the 1500m. This outcome, along with a similar performance next weekend at the last World Cup of the season in Marquette, Michigan, would ensure Canada gets full quotas (3 skaters per distance) for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. All Canadian skaters finished well within this objective in all distances, with the exception of Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) who was disqualified in the first round of the 1000m and gets no rank for this performance. All three of Canada’s 1000m skaters will therefore need to achieve strong performances next weekend in order to all be ranked within the top-32 when combining both World Cups.

Both relay teams made their way to the final. St-Gelais, Roberge, Vicent and Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) skated in the women’s A final, against China, the United States and Italy. Canada started four, but a beautiful outside pass on the United states after four laps pushed Canada to third. Unfortunately, as the Canadians were trying to pass the Italian skater, there was a contact and both fell, relegating Canada to third. Italy was later disqualified for that maneuver, but Canada still had to settle for a bronze medal. China won the gold and the Americans took silver.

Olivier Jean, François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) and the Hamelin brothers represented Canada in the final, facing Korea, China and the United States. The teams gave great reasons for the crowd to cheer from start to finish, with a very close race. While China and Canada were exchanging the lead for the most of the race, Korea came out strong in the last 10 laps, trading place with the Canadians in front of the pack. It was a close race to the finish, and Korea came out first, in 6:53.899. Canada was right behind in 6:53.941, and China won bronze in 6:54.053.

“It was an amazing relay,” summarised François-Louis Tremblay, the last skater in Canada’s relay. “If we don’t play hard, they will do it, so we have to fight to stay even with them. Being too nice is not going to help!”

Next week, Canada’s short track team heads to Marquette, Michigan, where they will skate in the fourth and final stop of the 2009-10 World Cup Circuit, hoping to gain full quotas for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.